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If you suffer from anxiety of any sort, First Floor Theater’s staging of Naomi Iizuka’s Polaroid Stories might be a performance to avoid. The raw mythological-documentary mash-up is a jittery punch to the gut, populated with wild-eyed junkies and menacing Johns. Characters come at you from all sides bearing blinding beams of light in the dark. The effect is visceral, to say the least.
Iizuka’s 1997 work, directed here by Hutch Pimental, binds Ovid’s classic Metamorphoses to real stories of life on the modern day streets with entrancing acting and gnarled chain link. Instead of a linear plot build, the stories seep into and pool around the capable cast members, giving each actor his or her well-deserved time in the flashlight. No one story outweighs its counterparts—as a whole, the performances are heavy with strung-out feeling.
A powerful cast and sensory experience doesn’t quite carry the production all the way through. Momentum wanes in the second act as lives and relationships tangle in true mythic fashion, until, at times, the action and structure feels stacked as haphazardly as the sheets of scrap metal that anchor the chaotic set. But for unconventional material that could very easily have pushed into abstract-for-abstraction’s sake, Polaroid is careful to restrain itself. Which isn’t to say it’s holding back. If anything, what the show gives is piercing, painful honesty.